Monday, March 22, 2010

Biting Babies

This is a fun topic. When I tell people how long I nursed each baby, this is what they bring up -- teeth! My grandma was born with teeth, so does that mean she wouldn't have been nursed?! Babies get teeth at all different ages, and all babies, as well as their mamas, handle it differently.

In my experience, the months that are the worst for biting are the months actually leading up to getting that first tooth. It's amazing how hard a baby can gum the nipple! Once they have teeth, at least in my cases, things got better.

I have, however, had 2 babies that thought it amusing to bit my shoulders or behind my knees. Odd, I know. I never quite figured this out and they were older when they did this. My son was about 18 months old, if I remember right. He would come up and bite the backs of my knees while I washed dishes. And Darcy was probably around the same age, or maybe closer to 12 months. It put me on edge all the time, anticipating the next bite. If you have a baby biting while nursing, I know exactly what you're feeling -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you cannot relax during breastfeeding, this can affect milk let-down. So let's see what we can do to help.

I have received a couple of Facebook messages lately that I'd like to share:

"Baby J is cutting his first tooth & it's a doozy! He's yanking & pulling & twisting me up to pieces & I don't think either of us are loving it when nursing."

"Max has 8 teeth and I'm sure he's working on more, what with all the drooling. But he's been biting me for about a month. Mostly during nursing but other times as well. During the day he does it at the end of a feed. I've tried taking him off and telling him "don't bite Mommy", etc. and not letting him nurse any more but since he's already done that doesn't really bother him.
At night, he nurses to sleep as usual but when he bites me I usually take him off, tell him why, and I give him another chance after a few minutes. If he bites me again I try and walk him, rock him, etc. but he doesn't want that. I know he is tired because he's yawning, rubbing eyes, etc. Tonight I told myself I would just walk him until he fell asleep to teach him that I will comfort him but if he bites he is not getting to nurse. He was fussing, as usual, but it was more mad sounding, not actual cries, and it was intermittent. He fell asleep after a while so I'm thinking "Yay me!" But I was going to give it a few minutes before I put him down. He's done this before. Sure enough, after a few minutes he woke up and was fussing again.
Oh and he was pinching me when he was mad but I was trying to ignore that. I was okay as long as he was just letting me know he wasn't happy. But after a while it escalated into actual miserable crying and he got so worked up that I finally just laid down with him again and after a few minutes of nursing he fell asleep. Of course because he had worn himself out.
I just don't know what else to do. Letting him cry like that just doesn't sit right with me. Any other suggestions for getting him to stop the biting? I really don't believe he's trying to be mean, but dang! It hurts!
I guess this is the price I pay for having an otherwise perfect baby? LOL! I do love him so! Even though he seems to be part piranha!"

As much as this was a part of our nursing experience too, I've really had to think back to how we handled it. That's good news -- you won't even remember this one day!

The obvious, "Ow! NO!" and removing baby from breast is a normal reaction. I was just talking with a friend of mine tonight about this and she said that was the first and last time her baby bit her. On the other hand, if baby is startled enough and scared by your reaction, he may start a nursing strike where he's scared to resume nursing. This may last even a few days! I don't believe the baby is being mean. It probably feels good to bite down on something. You might try a cool washcloth before nursing. Let him suck on that for a few minutes. It may numb the gums enough that he doesn't have that need to bite down.

Another trick I remember trying was to plug baby's nose when they would bite. Seems mean, but they have to breathe and they will release the nipple. I like this one because they can see your face and you can see theirs. Immediately end the nursing. Resume when you both feel ready, maybe in 5 minutes, or maybe in 5 hours! I also read about pushing the baby into the breast, but I don't like this idea. You can't see their face and this may cause them to bite harder. The idea was the same as the nose squeezing, making them release the breast because they can't breathe. The other, in my opinion, is more effective. I think that is an unpleasant association for the baby to bite and then not be able to breathe, and this is why we didn't have this problem very long.

My favorite lactation consultant in the DFW area, Mellanie Sheppard of For Babies Sake, suggested the following link: "This is is my favorite teething advice when babies are "chewing" like that (not just nipping at the end of a feeding)." Mellanie has told me time and again that is her favorite breastfeeding website.
I hope this is helpful. Sometimes misery loves company, doesn't it? There is comfort in knowing that other moms (nearly all of us) go through this at some point. This won't last forever, but you can't let the baby bite you either. Maybe it's time to turn off the Twilight movies, at least until baby is asleep!


speedymom said...

On the advice of a friend who had gone through this as well, I started teaching my daughter the "hurt" sign when she started doing this. I say "Ouch!!That hurts mommy!" and sign "hurt" after I have detatched her. ( anytime she bonks her head or the cat scratches her also sign it so she gets the idea) I also keep my hand right there and if I feel her biting down, I stick my pinky on there to detatch her. Its not perfect but it has helped.

Sarah said...

I swear, my daughter could care less what I do, she still bites me. All. The. Time. Sometimes she gets distracted by my older daughter and bites when she's turning to look, other times she just bites to bite (I just know it!). With my first, it took a couple of times saying "Ouch, no bite", pulling her off, or even letting out a little scream to let her know it hurt. This time, nothing. She's even taken up biting my shoulder and legs, arms, anything really, when given the chance. Little bugger.